The Geneva College Philosophy Program will host its sixth annual Bitar Memorial Lecture on March 25-26. R. J. Snell, this year’s Bitar Lecturer, is a philosopher contributing prolifically in Thomist studies, as well as to discussions to which a Thomist perspective is concretely applicable. He administers the philosophy program at Eastern University, in St. Davids, Pennsylvania.
Snell’s two-lecture series has as its over-arching title, “Culture of Boredom, Culture of Death.” In description of his agenda in the talks, Snell comments: “As we’ve “unhooked” ourselves and the cosmos from the sustaining governance of God, the things, the beings, of the cosmos lose their dignity, become mere givens rather than gifts from God, and we lose a sense of the limits of our desires and freedom. Eventually, the things of the cosmos, including persons, are rendered meaningless—just factical objects to use as we see fit.”
Snell has entitled Lecture 1, “Hating Being: The Emergence of Cultural Sloth, Boredom, and Nihilism.” He summarizes the lecture as follows: “The early monastics understand sloth (acedia) as a hatred of the work and tasks that God gives to us. Consequently the slothful are not necessarily lazy, and in fact might be stirred to a frenzy of activity, but the activity reveals a hatred of place, limits and even life itself. Thomas Aquinas develops sloth further, explaining how the slothful abhor even their own good and the grace required to attain their happiness, instead sinking further into self-withdrawal and the immobility and inability to act well. Given our own rejection of the limits of desire and freedom, we find the world and all its inhabitants to be nothing, incapable of providing sense to our actions or to ourselves. We are bored and nihilistic in our sloth.”
Of Lecture 2, “Bleaching the Good: Limitless Freedom and the Destruction of Value,” Snell says, “A bored and nihilistic culture loses the ability to work with a properly ordered freedom towards the common good, instead seeking to render everything, including persons, as objects of use and consumption. Our bored culture is thus a culture of death—we are death lovers.”
R. J. Snell is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Philosophy Program at Eastern University in Philadelphia. From 2003 to 2008, he served on the philosophy faculty at North Park University in Chicago, as well as directing their honors program. He holds a Ph.D. from Marquette University, a M.A. from Boston College, and an undergraduate degree from Liberty University. Snell is author of Through a Glass Darkly: Bernard Lonergan and Richard Rorty on Knowing Without a God's-Eye View (Marquette UP, 2006), and has presented numerous papers at conferences such as those of the Evangelical Theological Society. Current writing projects include the problem of boredom in contemporary culture, the new natural law theory, and a phenomenological account of Christian Education. Snell hails from Canada. He is married to Amy, and the two have three young children.
The Bitar event also includes a dinner with the lecturer for faculty and invited guests from Geneva and other institutions, to honor the Lectures’ endowing families, the William Kriners and the family of Byron Bitar. It features the announcement of the annual Bitar Cash Prize for best student philosophy paper, a gift from Mrs. Gail Bitar. Also there will be held a lunch with the lecturer for philosophy majors, and a master class, for Geneva students.
The Dr. Byron I. Bitar Memorial Lecture in Philosophy was endowed by the William C. Kriner Family in memory of Geneva College’s beloved professor of a quarter-century, in order to continue his legacy and vision for philosophy. The Lecture was inaugurated in 2004, a year after Dr. Bitar’s untimely death. Past Bitar Lecturers include renowned philosophers Stephen Evans, Paul Helm, Nicholas Wolterstorff and Linda Zagzebski. In 2009, James K. A. Smith gave a lecture titled A Liturgical Phenomenology for a Post-Secular Age.
Geneva College is a comprehensive Christian college of the arts, sciences and professional studies. Founded in the tradition of the Reformed Christian faith, Geneva prepares students to serve Christ in all areas of society: work, family and the church. Geneva College’s philosophy of education is based on the Foundational Concepts of Christian Higher Education. Geneva is a founding member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU).
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